ENOSBURG FALLS — Jim Cameron showed up ready to talk child care at Thursday’s Enosburgh Initiative meeting. The problem was that the other stakeholders did not.
Enosburgh residents in attendance tried to diagnose why that was.
It wasn’t for lack of interest. About 22 people came to the prior week’s child care summit at the same time, on the same day of the week, and in the same building, and Cameron said those who came seemed engaged.
Those in attendance at last night’s meeting concluded the Initiative had to directly reach out to child care officials and professionals. Several attended last week’s summit, including representatives from the Vermont Dept. of Children and Families, Let’s Grow Kids and Northwest Counseling & Support Services.
Suzi Hull Casavant said, “We need to make sure those people are in the room, somehow.”
But the conversation about local child care needs continued without them in the room.
Ward Heneveld, a lifelong professional educator, said that summit gave him the impression child care providers don’t often communicate with each other.
Heneveld said he believed progress could happen if the Initiative organized monthly coffee gatherings for those providers at, for example, the Enosburgh Community Center, just to get those providers talking with each other.
Cameron agreed with Heneveld’s perception of the situation.
“Everyone has their own piece, but no one has the big picture,” Cameron said.
Heneveld said developing the best possible child care system in Enosburgh should start with a discussion of “the qualities and capacities and skills that we expect kids to have when they start school.” He said that’s a conversation the state won’t facilitate. It’s a local conversation.
That’s the idea at the center of the Initiative’s new child care effort: building the best possible child care system in Enosburgh.
Those in attendance at last night’s meeting expressed confusion over whether the goal was establishing a new child care center, as in a physical building. Cameron stressed that was not his intent, and the rest of the Initiative regulars agreed that wasn’t theirs, either.
In fact, Cameron said his intent was almost the opposite: keeping existing providers in the area.
He said one Enosburgh provider gave parents two-week notice this past Monday. They’re closing. According to Cameron, that provider was licensed for 41 slots and four school-age slots.
Cameron stressed the direness of the child care situation.
“There would be no center in Enosburgh in two weeks” after that closing, he said.
As Matt Miner pointed out, though, the conversation extends beyond providers.
Miner said there are many components to child care systems beyond the centers themselves, including afterschool care, the community center, the school system.
All those in attendance last night agreed the conversation has to involve the whole community.
Not only are most of those in the community somehow connected to a solution — anyone with children is probably directly suffering in the midst of the situation.
“If you have two people who have to work, and they have to travel,” Cameron said, “it has to be a nightmare.”
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